Trip Leader: Jim Semmelroth
Participants: Candy Hartman, Peter DiFurio, Cathy Semmelroth, and me
It was raining at 9 am so we didn’t go to Petty Mountain. We reassembled for an afternoon walk up toward Dean Stone on the new trail. Starting at Sousa, we went up about 1600’ in 3.8 miles. Then we had to go back down too. Four hours for the round trip. It rained a little. It was windy. The trail is quite nice. We saw many bikers and hikers, some of them TRM people. Candy and I discussed having another try at Petty Mountain later this summer, once the whole route is snow free. When Peter tells you he is so slow, and will always bring up the rear, don’t believe him. He defines animated, exuberant, and chocolate tort.
But on Friday May 6, as preparation, I inspected 3 different trailheads to Petty Mountain. The remainder of this report will describe access to those trailheads.
Petty Pasture trailhead is the easiest to get to, and that trail has the greatest elevation gain. Take the Petty Creek exit (#77) from I-90 west of Missoula. Cross the Clark Fork river and continue south up the Petty Creek road 3.7 miles. There is an unmarked pullout on the east side of the road. The trail is unsigned but there is clearly a well maintained trail heading up the hillside. I did not go up the trail at all. Natural Atlas shows it as trail #733 gaining 4050’ in approximately 7+ miles one-way.
Find the Printer’s Creek trailhead by going farther up the Petty Creek road to the end of the pavement at about 10.0 miles from the Clark Fork river. Turn left onto the Old Petty Creek Road. In 50 yards you will see a forest service sign directing you to go 2 miles up to the Printers Creek trailhead on FR 5553. The trail is #718. There is no signage at the trailhead. The sign said 2 miles, but a vehicle without a trailer can easily go an additional mile to a berm and a parking area. The first 1.5 miles of the trail follows an old roadbed to the ridge between Printers and Bill creeks, and then follows the ridge up to an intersection with trail #8 and then over to Petty Mountain. Natural Atlas shows an elevation gain of 2750’ over about 7.3 miles one-way.
The above trails access Petty Mountain from the northwest, and then the southwest. The Albert Creek access is from the northeast. From Missoula, drive west on Mullan road to the Kona Bridge turn and go over the bridge. Proceed through many turns, with pavement becoming gravel, to the Southside road. Follow the Southside road northwest along the river to the intersection with the Albert Creek road about 14.5 miles from the Kona Bridge. This intersection is not signed as Albert but it may be signed as FR 5568. The trailhead is now about 11.5 miles away and the roads are quite bad. It took me 75 minutes going in and 65 minutes coming out.
The first 4 miles up Albert creek crosses private land and is signed as such. At 4.5 miles is the first switchback which will start you up the hillside and out of the Albert creek bottom. There is a road continuing up the creek bottom but the road around the switchback appears more used. At 4 miles further up the road, after much winding and some switchbacks, there will be an intersection at a switchback again. Do not follow the switchback. Go straight, past an FR sign used as target practice and so unreadable. Over the next 3 miles you will wish you had more clearance, better shocks, and a narrower vehicle. There will be no passing any one you happen to meet coming from ahead. But after 3 more miles the road crosses over the ridge to the other side. At the top there is a wide spot for parking, an obvious trail, and a sign simply stating “Trail”.
The trail follows the ridgeline, first dropping about 200’ then climbing about 2000’ up to Petty Mountain about 5.3 miles away on Trail #8. On May 6, 2022 the peak was always shrouded in cloud but the snowline looked to start at about 6000’.